Monday, September 5, 2011

Why the need to resist testing?

Taken from NEA Public blog.

Richard Cottingham
Aug 30, 2011 04:38PM Actions ▼

This thread has been running now for over two years. There has been a scarcity
of answers to the question asked in the topic "How can the federal government
really help schools close achievement gaps and improve achievement?" I believe
that this is because most of us see little or no connection between NCLB (now
RTTT) and closing the achievement gap.

For this reason I am posting the following. It is taken almost verbatim from
work by Marion Barry. I hope many teachers will read it, think about it,
comment on it and check out more of Marion Barry's work.

Hey, Teacher! Listen up!

This you can know for sure: The future won't be the same as the past. And this
you can also know for sure: The future will be more complicated, unpredictable,
and dangerous than the present or the past. So the answers and solutions
you're teaching in school won't do the job. The students will have to be
prepared to come up with their own.

This means they will have to think - infer, make value judgments, relate,
generalize analyze - and so on, because these thought processes are the
CREATORS of new knowledge.

Fortunately, complex, "higher-order" thought processes can be taught, learned,
and improved.

Unfortunately, higher-order thought processes aren't going to be taught,
learned or improved as long as politicians set education policy and demand
standardized tests... standardized tests that force educators to emphasize just
one thought process: REMEMBERING.

Why do standardized tests mostly measure short-term memory instead of higher
-order thinking processes?

Because nobody has yet figured out how to test higher-order thought processes.

To do that a test would have to:

(a) trigger higher-order thoughts in students' brains; then
(b) a computer or stranger would have to be able to judge the quality of those
thoughts and assign them meaningful numbers.
Neither (a) nor (b) is possible.


Test-taker differences in background, interests, ability, language, attitude,
ethnicity, experience, situation, and so on, make it impossible to write a
test-item that will cause every test-taker to think predictably.

Even if test-item writers knew how to make students think predictably ... their
thoughts would be far too complex and abstract for a computer or stranger to
judge their quality and assign numbers that meant something

Einstein summarized the problem simply and clearly:

"Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can
be counted."

Evaluating higher-order thought processes requires higher-order thought.
Teachers do it all the time, but it's a subjective process that requires a lot
of dialog between teacher and learner.

(Note a standardized test item may SEEM to be testing students' higher-order
thought processes when it is just:

asking them to remember someone else's thought they read or heard about; or
asking them to guess what the test-item writer was thinking.)

What the students will most need in the years ahead, what America will need
most, is creativity, intuition, ingenuity, insight, imagination,
perceptiveness, discernment, judgment, vision. These are products of
higher-order thought processes and their quality can't be measured by tests of
how much textbook-type information students can remember.

The wrong idea: "Education is just learning facts" is THE problem messing up
teaching and learning in classrooms today. There's no middle ground on this

If Einstein was wrong, then education is mostly just learning lots of facts and
standardized tests to find out what students remember are all that's needed to
show how well students are educated. But if Einstein is right, American
education is headed in the wrong direction. You, your children, and their
children will suffer the consequences.

Personally, I'm with Einstein. I believe the standardized testing fad is a
misguided, simplistic, abusive, de-humanizing, expensive mistake.

So, for yourself and future generations, resist standardized testing. Start a

Edited: August 30, 2011 04:50PM